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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, May 30, 2005
    Save the Welsh Streets
    Reading Chris Couch's City of Change and Challenge: Urban Planning and Regeneration in Liverpool has informed me about all sorts of small details about how and why the city has changed over the past forty years. But the conclusion Couch draws, was no surprise - as the market has grown to become the prime factor in regeneration, he says, there has been less and less comprehensive planning and more and more ad hoc interventions.

    Ringo's little spat with John Prescott over the planned demolition of large chunks of Toxteth's Welsh streets is the latest example of this. In an article headed, "Will this be the sixties revisited?" the current online issue of Nerve suggests that

    Liverpool's present is very much built on its past, so it's criminal that a lot of our heritage is being destroyed in the name of 'regeneration'. When the bulldozers level buildings to the ground a reference point for our memories is lost. Remember the mistakes of the past: the Cavern, Scotty Road, the list goes on.

    Many - locals and housing professionals - recognise the value these old streets still have. Ringo Starr's birthplace was in one of the rows of workers' cottages built and lived in by the Welsh workers who built much of the city - from Lime Street Station to landmark buildings on the Pier Head and the Welsh Presbyterian Church on Princes Avenue. As Nerve put it, 'They built them well and they built them on good land. With few exceptions they could be renovated for less than the cost of demolishing them.'

    And this is supported by a substantial article in The Telegraph property pages which gives good local examples of how things could be done differently and better; and puts the viability of this scheme in cold economic terms:

    In fact, wasting public money is assured, because instead of doing up properties for a maximum of £30,000, the Pathfinder is buying houses for £30,000-£40,000, demolishing them for £17,000, building another one for at least £80,000, using a large but as yet unquantifiable grant from Mr Prescott. Cost to taxpayer: up to £107,000 more per home than just doing them up. Sooner or later some auditor will work out that this amounts to a titanic waste of taxpayers' money.

    [Email the Welsh Streets Home Group]